Meet Annalisa, VP, Global Head Immunology and Inflammation Discovery at Roche

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Tell us a bit about yourself

I am Annalisa and I joined Roche at the beginning of May 2015. I am originally from Italy, but I left my country more than 20 years ago for what was supposed to be a couple of years of training in the USA during my PhD. But life had different plans for me, so after 3 years at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, I moved to California. To cut a long story short, I spent most of my last 25 years in the States. My husband is from California and my 3 boys were all born at Stanford in California. When I am not working, I love to travel with my family. I think it is important to show our kids the many different cultures and realities existing in the world. In addition, I like to keep active, mostly running and cross-training.

In which Roche location are you currently working and what can you tell us about that location as a work environment?

I work at Roche pRED (Pharma Research and Early Development) in Basel. I live in downtown Basel and walk to work most days (unless I am late for a meeting, in which case I take the bus!), which I find very enjoyable. It is also the perfect time to get my ideas in order.  So far, I love working at Roche. I have found the other scientists to be very welcoming and with a great desire to collaborate. I am high-energy myself and I thrive in an environment where there are a lot of stimuli and plenty of multi-tasking. Our therapeutic area (I&I) is very new, therefore the group is in its building phase. I am in the process of hiring my staff, and by the middle of next year I plan to have approximately 15 people in my group.

Why did you decide to join Roche and why this location?

I think the opportunity to join Roche presented itself at the right time. I had been in my previous job for about 15 years; I was very familiar with my responsibilities, and I needed some new challenges in my career. With this position I was given the opportunity to build something up from scratch, and that resonated extremely well with me. The idea of running a Discovery Unit in the context of a big pharma company like Roche represented an incredible opportunity. The fact that the position was in Basel was simply the cherry on the cake. I had been away from Europe for more than 20 years, and, in all honesty, I never thought I was going to get back to it until after I retired. Even though I love the US (my oldest son is in Boston in college), deep in my heart I will always be Italian, and therefore moving to Basel was sort of coming home.

What is your current position at Roche?

As the Global Head of Discovery in the I&I therapeutic area, my main responsibility is to identify new molecular targets in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. I work very closely with the existing groups in pRED to generate new drugs against these targets. Right now I am focused on hiring the scientists who will actively work on identifying and validating the targets, and push the current knowledge toward new horizons. I also work closely with our partnering group in the evaluation of external opportunities, with the goal of expanding our pipeline through potential licensing of selected product candidates and technologies.

I am very excited about the chance to make a real difference for patients. I think it is the dream of every scientist to be able to do something of great value for people affected by extremely serious and debilitating diseases.

How would you describe Roche as an employer?

My impression is that the company is very dedicated to its employees and supports an environment of respect and equality. I have met people who have been working for Roche for the past 10-15 years and they particularly stressed the commitment that the company has towards its employees.  

How would you describe the people working here?

As with every company that has a large number of employees, Roche’s employees cover a wide range of personalities and skills. Almost everyone I encounter is very positive about his/her experience at Roche. The researchers are engaged and engaging, and I sense a great degree of passion for Drug Discovery, which is a must in our profession.

What can you tell us about the current job openings in your department?

As mentioned earlier, I am currently building my team. I have filled several scientist positions and I am pleased with the outcome. To me, having the scientific knowledge is one of the most important requirements candidates have to fulfill. The immunology group is new, therefore I need to identify energetic candidates who know the field of immunology and inflammation extremely well, in order to build a solid core discovery team. In addition, our group will be small and very dynamic, with interactions among the members of the group taking place on a daily basis. Therefore I also pay attention to how the different personalities would work together in order to create a highly productive environment.

Details about the current open positions can be found here:

What would you advise job seekers who want to join us?

People who are interested in joining Roche should first identify current opportunities on the Roche’s careers website, where all open positions can be found. In addition, it is helpful to connect with current employees to better understand the environment and the needs of different departments.

Thank you for your story!

Tags: Career Blog, Basel, Switzerland, Research & Development